Former Shetland resident and gymnastics coach Mark Wylie is to receive the British Empire Medal from the Queen in her 2015 New Year’s Honours list.
Mr Wylie has known about the impending honour for two weeks, and has had a hard job keeping it to himself. He was sworn to secrecy until tonight, but could not resist telling his (very discreet) parents. Now an overjoyed Mr Wylie can announce it to the world.
He said: “I’m extremely humbled, shocked and seriously almost speechless at receiving the honour ‘for services to sport in the Shetland Isles and charity work abroad’.
“It certainly hasn’t sunk in yet. I would like to thank the people of Shetland, whoever they are, for nominating me.”
The honours are given to people nominated by the community, but the identity is not revealed.
Mr Wylie will have two royal occasions – one to receive the honour and the other at a royal garden party, probably at the Palace of Holyroodhouse in Edinburgh, later in 2015.
He left Shetland this summer after a career spanning three decades at the Clickimin Leisure Complex. He and his wife Jenny are now settled in Aberdeenshire, where Mr Wylie has taken up a new challenge, doing much the same work on a bigger scale.
While in Shetland, his work involved hundreds if children. He started a trampolining class when Clickimin opened in 1985 and demand for support for his services grew.
A gymnastics club followed, then a dance group and pre-school classes. Many youngsters stayed with him throughout their school years and keep in touch – he said he has been “completely overwhelmed” to be still receiving cards and gifts from children and families in Shetland.
Recalling his years at Clickimin he said: “I will always be very proud of what I helped create with our vast programme of children’s activities for all ages, especially developing the sports of trampoline and gymnastics.”
Mr Wylie was also involved in overseas volunteering activity. He and his enthusiastic team introduced gymnastics to Zambia in 2008.
Later he and a group of volunteers went to Romania and the African country of Malawi, working with schools and in the community.
Last year, after two years of planning and fund-raising, Mr Wylie and another group returned with Team Malawi, where they were involved in building a feeding station. They also donated football tops to local village children, which caused such delight that he found it quite moving.
He said: “All the children we helped certainly enjoyed our visit. Africa was a different world, the children had nothing, apart from disease and poverty, many of them had no clothes and no parents but yet they were the happiest people ever. I would like to thank the Shetland public for donating almost £14,000 for our project.”
• Full story in this week’s Shetland Times, published on 31st December.